New president, Johnston, pledges to fight proposed public notices switch

THE first president of a new body representing Scottish newspapers has made it his top priority to persuade the Scottish Government to abandon plans to have local authorities switch their public notices from local newspapers to the internet – to save local authorities money, but at the risk of financially toppling some newspaper titles.

Says Michael Johnston, inaugural president of the Scottish Newspaper Society – created following a recent merger of the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society and Scottish Newspaper Publishers Association: “The Society’s first priority is lobbying the Scottish Government against its plans to remove public information notices from newspapers, a change that is unnecessary and not in the public interest given the lack of public trust in state-funded websites, their low usage, Scotland’s poor broadband penetration and, equally importantly, the poor take-up of broadband, particularly by the most vulnerable and excluded sections of Scottish society.”

Johnston is divisional managing director of Johnston Newspapers Scotland, publishers of The Scotsman. Elected vice-president of SNS is Tim Blott, managing director, Herald & Times Group, publishers of The Herald. Jim Raeburn was also appointed director.

Added Johnston of his election: “The creation of the Scottish Newspaper Society is a tremendously important step forward for Scotland’s local, regional and national press at a critical period in its development. It provides the Scottish press with a powerful new voice at a time when politicians are proposing a number of changes which represent a fundamental attack on local democracy in Scotland.

“I am extremely proud to be the inaugural president of the Scottish Newspaper Society and I am delighted that we have, in Jim Raeburn, a founding director who has an unparalleled knowledge of the Scottish press and the fundamental role it plays at the heart of a devolved Scotland.”

Said Raeburn: “In these testing times, it is especially important that we have a united industry speaking with one voice. The Society provides that platform for the effective representation of the newspaper industry in Scotland to the Scottish and UK governments and others. We are delighted that the opposition parties at Holyrood are giving us strong support for the case we have presented on public notices.”